I "celebrated" my 50th birthday last week. I use the quotation marks because I really had a hard time accepting that milestone. Sure, I'm glad I'm still alive and more or less healthy, but that number really freaked me out. Also, I felt bad because I wasn't home in Massachusetts to celebrate with the people who've known me for most of my life. I have a handful of friends here in Georgia, but it just wasn't the same.
My friend Sue drove up from Naples, FL, to celebrate with me. We had a girls' night out at Spanky's in Savannah with my friend Sheila and my daughter, Hillary. It was a lot of fun, and it helped that by then my actual birthday was over and I'd had a couple of days to process my feelings. The four of us are readers, so we always have something to talk about.
Last week, I was finally able to get to Pembroke with some free time on my hands. I dragged the kids to a thrift shop I'd recently discovered, and my age really hit me in the face. There I stood, browsing the bookshelves, which had a larger than usual selection of very old Harlequins and other books that I originally read when I was in my teens. Barbara Cartland (before she went all crazy with her "trance" formula historicals), Elsie Lee, Lucy Walker, and a bunch of others all stared back at me. Even though I couldn't remember anything so specific as a plot for most of them, I knew I'd read most of them. (I routinely read 15 or 20 books a week when I was young.) I bought a few for old times' sake, and I've read a couple of them. They're very old-fashioned now, and the stories are simple and straightforward (Harlequin authors were not allowed to incorporate sub-plots; consequently, there are fewer characters, but the authors were held to high standards, so they're actually pretty well-written.), but they've held up better than I expected they would.
While Sue was here, we went back to Pembroke so I could check out a used bookstore there. It turned out not to be a bookstore at all, but rather kind of an old-fashioned hardware store with a book section and a thrift shop at the back of it. It was sort of organized, but there were books there that looked like they'd been sitting there since they were new, covered in a sort of rusty dust and a bit grimy to the feel. Sue and Hillary were pretty uncomfortable, so we didn't linger, but I did buy one book. I really want to go back by myself so I can take my time and peruse every nook and cranny. It was peculiar to see relatively new books and authors cheek-by-jowl with the old-timers like Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Frank Yerby, and of course, every romance series ever published, including Loveswept, Candlelight, and not just Harlequins but even original Mills & Boon.
I'm really finicky about tactile things, and I hate for books to feel grubby, but I don't mind it when they're old--maybe it's because somewhere in the back of my head, I believe they're supposed to be that way. I'm going back so I can explore to my heart's content, and at 50 cents each for paperbacks, I may just indulge myself and buy a few...dozen. Just maybe....